Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are an issue of significant and growing importance to the field of public health. The prevalence of ASDs is rising, and these disorders significantly impact the quality of life of affected persons and their families. Though the etiology of ASDs has long been poorly understood, in recent years, studies are revealing genetic and environmental risk information about ASDs, with much more risk information expected to follow from scientific studies currently underway. The availability of this risk information raises questions about whether and how it should be communicated to individuals, families, and the public at large. One ethical issue of particular concern with ASD risk communication is the possibility that it may cause inadvertent harm to risk message recipients. Here we review the emerging picture of ASD risk, discuss some ways in which it may lead to inadvertent harm, and suggest some future directions for risk communication research and practice that might help to address this issue.


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pp. 105-138
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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